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Rolling Calf
Tales of a Jamaican Ghost (Duppy)

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Rolling Calf | by Venesha Johnson, Associate Writer

Telling duppy stories are part of our tradition here in Jamaica. Whether they are real or not is quite debatable, but many have claimed to have seen them.  You might be wondering what exactly is a duppy? Don't worry, by the end of this you'll know about a duppy and you will know about Rolling Calves too!

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What Is A Duppy?

A duppy is the Jamaican term for a spirit or ghost. It is the spirit or soul of someone who has died that returns in the form of a human being or animal. You are taught to be afraid of ghosts, however some people believe not all ghosts are bad. Certain duppies return with the intention to protect their families and friends and give them warnings on foreseeable danger.

One common thing in Jamaica when it comes to duppies are dreams or as we say, them "dreaming to us". The dreams can be about various things, for example, if they did not die of natural causes, they may come to family members in dreams to let them know what really happened. They may also tell their loved ones which friends, deals or jobs are not the right ones to have.

Some people who gamble swear by their dead relatives or friends telling them the numbers in a dream, especially if they win. If they don't, they will blame it on misinterpreting the dream and will spend days mulling over the it to find the correct meaning.

Watch Video! Elderly Jamaican Woman Sharing Her Encounter With A Duppy

Here's a short video of an elderly Jamaican woman sharing her encounter with Jamaican supernatural creatures!

It is a common belief that "bad duppies" are restless souls and go around scaring and harming people. Jamaicans also believe these ghosts that intend to cause harm to others can be summoned and controlled by obeah workers to carry out their tasks.

You might be wondering how we know so much about these mystical creatures. You see, telling duppy stories was a common Jamaican past-time from the days of slavery well into the 1800s, since there wasn't much to do after sundown but talk because there was no electricity (Jamaica did not have electricity until 1892 in Black River).

So, to pass the time, everyone would gather and listen to the storytelling of their grandparents and other elderly persons. This tradition has been maintained especially in the rural areas of the island.

One of the most popular and most feared duppies in Jamaica back then and even today is the Rolling Calf.

What is a Rolling Calf?

A Rolling Calf is the spirit of a man that led a devious life while he was alive, usually a butcher or farmer. A rolling calf has the ability to shapeshift, and in most cases, will appear as a 3-legged goat or bull. This creature has terrifying, blazing red eyes and smoke coming from its nostrils.

In addition to that, it has heavy chains wrapped around its neck that would pull loudly on the ground to let you know they were near. They are said to have such a pungent smell that you can tell when is in the area from miles away. These cruel creatures will go around torturing people, especially those who have committed any crimes or misbehaved in any way.

They come out at night, even more so during a full moon, roaming the streets and plantations. Blocking streets and chasing down their victims. During the days though they are rumoured to stay at the roots of cotton and bamboos trees and caves.

The tales of the rolling calf were so scary that we as children would be scared to go out at night. On the rare occasion we did, we would become so petrified that we would take our shoes off and dash as fast as we can through the dark or dimly lit areas. This was accompanied by screams which in hindsight, was very counterproductive if you are trying to outrun a duppy.

The stories we heard were so terrifying that we would become paranoid to the point of hearing, or at least, thinking we heard the ghost's chains being pulled on the ground.

While most of them are afraid of any encounters with a rolling calf just the same, Jamaican parents would sometimes oversell the creature to little kids to scare them into behaving and going to bed early.

But don’t freak out! Even though they are horrifying, the rolling calf does have a few weaknesses and fears that can be used against him.

What Are The Rolling Calf's Weaknesses?

So, there are a few ways to escape if you happen to run into one. Some of the most popular ways to wade off an attack from a rolling calf are:

  1. The moon - The rolling calf is terrified of the moon, so one way to scare him off is to hold a mirror at an angle that will force him to see the reflection of the moon. This will scare him and make him run away.
  2. Dropping random items - You can also try dropping any random items behind you as you try to escape him as a form of distraction. One of his weaknesses is counting items. So the rolling calf will stop to count each item while you run to safety.
  3. Whipping - Another thing the rolling calf is afraid of is getting a whipping. If you hold a tarred whip in your left hand and flog it or attempt to flog it, it will become scared and runoff in the night.
  4. Running across the street - Another way to evade this beast is to run across the street before it does. For some reason, it won’t follow. 
  5. Sticking a knife into the ground - You can also try sticking a penknife or double-bladed knife into the ground preferably at a crossroad or junction and it will be unable to chase after you anymore.

What is your take on the rolling calf? Do you believe they exist? What method would you use if you see a rolling calf? I hope you have paid close attention, just in case. :-)

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Other Pages Related To Jamaican Rolling Calf

You will also find these pages quite helpful as well:

Return to Jamaican Culture from Jamaican Rolling Calf 
Return to My Island Jamaica Homepage from Jamaican Rolling Calf

References & Sources For Jamaican Rolling Calf

  1. Investigating The Story Of The Rolling Calf,  
  2. Rolling Calf, Caribbean Folklore. | Mythology & Folklore Amino,  
  3. CHING! CHING! CHING! - The rolling calf with blazing-red eyes | Features | Jamaica Star,
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